Canada for sale

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A federal pilot program could soon thrust “wealthy investor” right next to the beaver in the lexicon of Canadian cultural symbols.

Under the new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program, the government will provide immediate permanent residency to 60 creditors. The catch? They must have a proven net worth of at least $10 million, and be willing to loan $2 million interest-free to the Bank of Canada.

Putting a price tag on citizenship devalues what it means to be a Canadian and everything that stands for. Citizenship should be reserved as a right and privilege for those born domestically, and for those committed to adopting Canada as their home.

A failed program of a similar ilk, the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), was jettisoned late last year.

Analysis of the IIP showed little evidence that these foreign investors maintained ties to Canada or promoted positive economic growth. It was also noted in a federal budget that immigrant investors were reporting domestic incomes significantly lower than the Canadian household average — and paid far less tax as a result.

Public opinion dubbed the system a “cash for citizenship” scheme. It placed one-percenters on a fast-track path inaccessible to other immigrants.

Critics were specifically leery about increased residential investment that has caused the price of housing in major cities to soar. This growth is impossible to sustain due to the inability of local incomes to keep pace. Consequently, average Canadians are being priced out of the housing market at an alarming rate.

The government’s revamped investment program tightened up on background checks, shifted the focus to start-up funding and more than doubled the capital requirements.

But these changes seem like mere window dressing designed to hide a deeply flawed and elitist platform.

Foreign investors should be encouraged to settle in Canada — but they should be subject to the same processes as everyone else. The contrary would only bring about a two-tier system where a citizen’s value is intrinsically linked to the depth of their pockets, rather than their civic duty.

In its current state, this program advertises to prospective Canadians that an immigrant’s wealth is their only valued contribution to the country. This notion is diametrically opposed to the cultural mosaic philosophy that champions social and cultural benefits of well-integrated immigrants.

The program is a slight to first-generation Canadians who have spent years paying into the system and navigating immigration bureaucracy. Would-be citizens whose records collect dust awaiting federal approval are forced to look on as opulent backers leap to the front of queue.

What does it say about the value of Canadian citizenship that we would haggle it away to the highest bidder?

VIP treatment should be reserved for the likes of nightclubs, hotels and airlines. New Canadians shouldn’t be transitioned through their wallets, but through positive commitment to our society.

Alex is one of the Journal’s Photo Editors. He’s a fourth-year economics and history medial.

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